UK hostage's remains identified in Lebanon

AP News
Posted: Nov 23, 2009 2:31 PM

The remains of British hostage Alec Collett, who disappeared in 1985 during Lebanon's civil war while working for the United Nations, have been positively identified, the U.N. announced Monday.

Experts began searching for Collett's remains last week in the eastern Bekaa Valley, which during the 1975-90 civil war was a lawless region of banditry and kidnapping. Lebanese security officials said two bodies were discovered near the village of Aita al-Foukhar and samples were sent for DNA testing in Beirut.

U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had been informed of the positive identification of Collett's remains.

Britain's Foreign Office also confirmed Monday that a set of remains recovered last week belonged to Collett.

Collett, who was 63 at the time of his abduction, disappeared in southern Beirut on March 25, 1985 while on assignment for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees.

The Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims claimed it hanged Collett in 1986 and issued videotape showing him dangling from a gallows. The group was one of the names used by followers of Palestinian militant leader Abu Nidal, who committed a series of spectacular acts of terrorism around the globe before his death in 2002.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said last week the two bodies were found in a post that was run by Abu Nidal's group. His kidnappers said they killed him a year later.

At least 88 foreigners were taken hostage between 1984 and 1990, including 17 Americans, by the various factions in Lebanon's bitter civil war.

Okabe said the secretary-general hopes that the discovery of Collett's remains "can provide a measure of comfort to his loved ones."

Ban expressed appreciation to authorities in Britain and Lebanon for finding the remains after so many years, she said.

Authorities had previously searched for Collett's body in the then Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon without success.